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Legislation looming to allow more locations for ‘commercial lifestyle centers’ and their liberal libations

January 3, 2020

Christopher M. Mackenzie

Sands Anderson PC

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The first session of the Virginia General Assembly in the new decade convenes January 8th, and proposed bills are already pouring in.  One such bill that may interest those in the commercial real estate field is targeted at shoppers who may want a tipple with their other transactions, and the developments seeking to attract them.

Sen. Barbara Favola (D-Arlington) has pre-filed SB-181, which would increase the availability of the “commercial lifestyle center” designation, which allows for a more expansive ‘open container’ license from the Virginia ABC.  Under the Alcohol Beverage Control Act, visitors to a “commercial lifestyle center” are permitted take alcoholic beverages purchased within restaurants out with them, to then stroll the development, congregate in its common areas, and even go into other shops (with the owner’s consent), all the while quaffing their preferred potent potable. Va. Code § 4.1-206(A)(15).

Under current law, to be eligible for a  “commercial lifestyle center” license, a development must meet the following definition:

A mixed-use commercial development covering a minimum of 25 acres of land and having at least 100,000 square feet of retail space featuring national specialty chain stores and a combination of dining, entertainment, office, residential, or hotel establishments located in a physically integrated outdoor setting that is pedestrian friendly and that is governed by a commercial owners’ association that is responsible for the management, maintenance, and operation of the common areas thereof.

Va. Code § 4.1-100.  SB-181 would simply amend that definition to reduce the minimum acreage from 25 acres to 10 acres.  According to the Washington Business Journal, Sen. Favola introduced the measure after discussions with Virginia ABC, which she oversees as the incoming chair of the Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee, indicating that ABC has received numerous inquiries about the designation for properties that did not meet the 25 acre minimum.  Reducing the requirement to 10 acres would expand the pool of properties that could potentially qualify to offer this perk to their patrons.  It would also follow the trend in development towards increased urban density and communal ‘work, play, live’ areas, as discussed at the most recent VCU Real Estate Trends conference.  At present, there are no “commercial lifestyle centers” in the Richmond area, but that may be subject to change if this bill finds success in the upcoming session.

If you have any questions, please consult the Commercial Real Estate team at Sands Anderson.